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New technology to help children with cerebral palsy

Nov 21, 2005
By New Jersey Institute of Technology

"Biomedical engineers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) will use new technology to help children with cerebral palsy improve their movements, reduce stiffness in their joints and live fuller and more independent lives.

Small robots mounted on wheelchairs, interactive video games and a robotic arm that can be programmed to guide and aid human motion these are just a few of the technologies the engineers will use to help these children improve their muscular control and movements.

"Those of us without disabilities can't really understand how much extra effort goes into doing the things of everyday life," said Richard Foulds, PhD, an associate professor in the biomedical engineering department at NJIT. "In a nation of technological riches, there is no better way for engineers to use their creative talents than to find new methods and devices that help children with cerebral palsy overcome their daily barriers."

Foulds is director of the newly formed Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) at NJIT, funded by a $4.75 million grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, in Washington, D.C. The institute supports research for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities. The grant, awarded on Nov. 1, 2005, will run for five years.

The strength of the center, said Foulds, is the synergy it will create between NJIT and its collaborating institutions: Children's Specialized Hospital, Mountainside, the largest pediatric rehabilitation hospital in the country, which will be the clinical site for the research; Rutgers-New Brunswick, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, (UMDNJ) Newark. Sergei Adamovich, PhD, assistant professor in the biomedical engineering at NJIT, and Bruno Mantilla, MD, a special lecturer in the same department, will serve as co-project directors for the center.

Children with cerebral palsy have limited use of their arms due to the discoordination of their neural motor control and stiffness of their joints. The stiffness results from spasticity, the involuntary muscle tightness that occurs in about two-thirds of children with cerebral palsy. These difficulties interfere with the way these children walk, play and perform the manual tasks needed for studying - writing, typing or holding a book."

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